Summer Safety for Children  

May 12, 2016

Summer is right around the corner. Children and their families are thinking of summer plans and activities. Kids are ready for some summer fun and love the hot summer months because it allows them to spend lots of time outside. There is something about this season that makes kids run faster and play harder. With all the summer fun possibilities like swimming at the pool, boating, going on bike rides, playing baseball, playing at the playground or going for long walks, it is important to be aware that all this fun can come with risks that sometimes lead to serious injuries.  

One serious injury that parents need to be aware of is traumatic brain injury. The Brain Injury Association of America defines a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as an acquired brain injury that is “caused by an external physical force that may produce a diminished or altered state of consciousness.” The most common causes of TBI are vehicle crashes, falls, sports injuries, and violence.

Traumatic brain injury contributes to about 30% of all injury deaths in the U.S. While some TBIs are severe, most may be described as “mild” because they are usually not life threatening, they are commonly called concussions. For those that do survive a TBI many experience effects that last a few days or months and some will face disabilities which may last the rest of their lives.  Prevention is key.

Listed below are the selected seasonal safety facts for spring and summer from the Brain Injury Association of America’s Seasonal Brochures that help protect children.  Follow these tips to reduce the risk of brain injury:

• Bicycle incidents are most likely to occur within five blocks of home. Teach by example. A bicycle helmet is a necessity not an accessory.
• A bicyclist who is wearing a helmet is less likely to die, be seriously injured or become disabled if hit by a car. Buy a helmet that meets the safety standards of ANSI, Snell, or ASTM. Tighten chin strap to keep helmets from slipping forward or backward. Only two fingers should fit under the chin strap Place the helmet directly over the forehead.
• Baseball has the least amount of safety equipment required of any youth sport. Check that your child’s baseball helmet meets standards of the national Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment. (NOCSAE)
• Falls are the most common cause of playground injuries. Check the surface under playground equipment. Avoid asphalt concrete, grass and soil surfaces. Look for surfaces with shredded mulch, pea gravel, crushed stone and other loose surfaces.
• Two-thirds of all-terrain vehicle accidents have involved children under 16 years old. Model safe behavior by always wearing helmets with face protection and protective clothing.
• Brain injuries occur when skaters fall and hit their heads on the pavement. Wear a helmet for protection against falls.
• Brain injury is the leading cause of death among children hit by cars. Always stop at the curb or edge of the road; teach children to look before entering a street, reminding them to never run into the street.
• Most children who survive drowning are found within two minutes of being under water; most who die are found after 10 minutes or longer. Always supervise your child around water.
• Alcohol use is a leading factor in boating incidents and deaths. Stop your child from riding in a boat with anyone who has been drinking alcohol.
• Screens are designed to keep out bugs, not to keep in children. Install child safety window guards.

In the event that an injury does occur this summer be sure to recognize the warning signs of a traumatic brain injury.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advocates calling 911 or seeking emergency medical help as soon as possible if your child displays any of the following symptoms after a probable brain injury:

• Feeling tired all the time, tiredness or listlessness, having no energy or motivation;
• Irritability or crankiness (will not stop crying or cannot be consoled), mood changes (feeling sad or angry for no reason);
• Change in eating (will not eat or nurse);
• Loss of sense of smell or taste;
• Headaches or neck pain that do not go away;
• Slowness in thinking, speaking, acting or reading;
• Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping a lot more or having a hard time sleeping);
• Changes in the way the child plays;
• Difficulty remembering, concentrating, or making decisions;
• Lack of interest in favorite toys or activities;
• Loss of new skills, such as toilet training;
• Blurred vision or eyes that tire easily;
• Increased sensitivity to lights, sounds, or distractions;
• Ringing in the ears;
• Light-headedness, dizziness, loss of balance or unsteady walking; or
• Urge to vomit (nausea), vomiting

Symptoms of TBI might be subtle and may not appear right after an injury occurs.  It might be days or weeks after the injury for the signs or symptoms to appear.  It is very important to continue to monitor your child for weeks after their injury. 

The more information that one learns about how to prevent a traumatic brain injury, the less likely it will occur and children will not only be assured a fun summer, but a safe one!

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Injury Prevention & Control: Traumatic Brain Injury & Concussion. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov [Accessed: 23 April 2016]
Brain Injury Association of America.  Brain Injury Facts. Retrieved from http://www.biausa.org [Accessed: 23 April 2016]

-by Ronda Hunt, ESU 10 School Psychologist